Ogier racks up ninth Monte Victory

Sébastien Ogier scored a lights-to-flag victory at the first round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship and in doing so, celebrated his record ninth triumph at Rallye Monte-Carlo. But his victory wasn't without its problems as Toyota technicians changed his gearbox in just 13 minutes at service after a hybrid scare! Although undertaking only selected drives for Toyota Gazoo Racing again this season Ogier kicked off his part-time campaign with another winning performance on the twisty asphalt roads of the Alps Maritime to head GR Yaris team-mate Kalle Rovanperä by 18.8sec in a dominant 1-2 for the Japanese squad.

Ogier's nine victories in three decades have been achieved with five different manufacturers and topping off his perfect weekend was co-driver Vincent Landaus' maiden win at world level. The Frenchman led the WRC opener from start to finish after creating a lead of over 30 seconds during Friday's first full day in the mountains above Monaco. Kalle Rovanperä reduced that deficit to just 16.0sec heading into Sunday's finale, but Ogier, who was denied glory by a late puncture 12 months ago, kept his cool to maintain the buffer throughout the final four speed tests.

"It's huge, I love this rally. It's the one which gave me the dream right at the beginning and I am so happy for Vincent. For me it's nice, but for him it's a dream to take his first win. We still need to enjoy these moments and that's why we are still here [in the WRC], to catch some victories like this. To win a famous one like Monte has no price." Said a happy Ogier.

Rovanperä finished on a high by winning the Wolf Power Stage to add five bonus points to his tally. As the highest-placed full-time driver, the young Finn's title defense is off to a solid start. Heavy tyre wear prevented Hyundai i20 N driver Thierry Neuville from gaining time on Rovanperä and after 18 stages, the Belgian was forced to settle for third overall, 27.8sec ahead of Elfyn Evans. But for a rear puncture which cost the Welshman over 40 seconds on Friday, a 1-2-3 finish for Toyota could well have been on the cards.

Ott Tänak went on soft compound tyres in preparation for an attack on the bonus points-paying Wolf Power Stage, but missed out on the benchmark time by half a second, thus ending his M-Sport Ford Puma debut with a top-five result, although he felt he'd made positive progress. Takamoto Katsuta was lucky to finish the rally after limping through the finale with damaged rear suspension, but the Yaris driver held onto sixth overall by 14.9sec from Dani Sordo, whose Hyundai was plagued by a hybrid unit faults.

A somewhat subdued Esapekka Lappi finished eighth in his Hyundai debut, while WRC2 stars Nikolay Gryazin and Yohan Rossel completed the top 10. Scandinavia is next as the only winter rally of the WRC series - Rally Sweden based in Umeå 9 - 12 February.

Monte Carlo Rally Overall
Pos Driver/Codriver Team Time/Gap
1 Sebastien Ogier/Vincent Landais Toyota 3h12m02.0s
2 Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Hattunen Toyota + 18.8s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martun Wydaeghe Hyundai + 44.4s
4 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin Toyota +1m12.1s
5 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja M-Sport Ford +2m34.9s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston Toyota +3m32.6s
7 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera Hyundai +3m47.5s
8 Esapekka Lappi/Janni Fern Hyundai +3m51.3s
9 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov Skoda +10m03.4s (WRC 2)
10 Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand Citroen +10m07.9s (WRC 2)

22nd January, 2023